Case Number 05992: Small Claims Court


Warner Bros. // 1996 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // January 15th, 2005

The Charge

Everything else was just practice!

The Case

This whole Yu-Gi-Oh thing -- I just don't get it. I don't understand the card game. I don't understand the television series. I don't understand the phenomenon. I don't understand the plot of this movie, which has something to do with a pharaoh, the god Anubis, ancient Egyptian prophecies, a pyramid-shaped pendant/puzzle, and a bunch of card-slinging kids. About 45 minutes in I paused it, got up, banged my head against the wall six or seven times, and then started watching it again. Big mistake.

I'll describe to you what I saw. Just don't ask me to explain it.

Yugi, the young hero with the Lisa Simpson-esque haircut, obtains the Millennium Puzzle, an ancient Egyptian artifact (exactly how he came to possess the Puzzle isn't made clear). Yugi has trouble completing the Puzzle (it consists of three pieces, yet he can't figure it out), but inspiration strikes, and he locks the final piece in place. Well, something weird happens, because next thing you know Yugi is sharing his body with the spirit of a pharaoh. He also gets his hands on three "god cards," and becomes master of the monster card game created by Maximilian Pegasus.

Yugi and his grandfather visit the local museum, the latest stop on the Tomb of Anubis Tour. (Oh, yeah, I forgot -- just as Yugi completes the Puzzle, archeologists discover the tomb of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead.) Yugi's grandfather, who runs a gaming/comic book shop, can decipher hieroglyphics and interpret Egyptian prophecy, which comes in handy, as he is able to read the inscription engraved on Anubis's sarcophagus. (I was under the impression that the guys who run comic book stores all had degrees in philosophy. Learn something new every day.) This inscription has something to do with the Pyramid of Light, a powerful ancient relic that just so happens to be part of the Anubis exhibit. While staring at the Pyramid of Light, Yugi passes out and has a strange vision. When he comes to, both the Pyramid of Light and the body of Anubis are gone.

That's the first half of the film. The next half hour concerns a duel between Yugi's pharaoh persona and Kaiba, Yugi's archenemy. Yugi also has to face the god Anubis in a climactic card duel, which eats up the last fifteen minutes of the film. That's right. Forty-five minutes of set-up, forty-five minutes of payoff, ninety minutes of boredom.

Like I mentioned earlier, I don't get it. Are the monsters conjured up by these cards real or not? (The story seems to be playing it both ways.) Does the government know about these cards? (Seems to me a few of those cards could come in handy during wartime.) Does anyone know Yugi is possessed by the spirit of a pharaoh? (No one ever says anything about it, but it should be pretty obvious to everyone else that something's up.) Why would a god -- a god of death, no less -- need to concern himself with a card game? (I'm willing to accept Death playing chess -- or even Battleship -- but this is ridiculous.) Why is Yugi the only kid with parental supervision? (Not that gramps is much of an authority figure.) Why does it take 90 minutes to tell this story? (I guess it could be worse -- it could be longer.) How is it my six-year-old nephew can make sense of this? (I had him explain it to me, but I didn't understand his explanation.) What did I ever do to deserve this? (Don't answer that.)

On the technical side of things, this isn't really such a bad release. Aside from just a bit of edge enhancement, the colorful, vibrant "kid-friendly" (yeah, right) full frame transfer really pops. There's not a lot of surround action in the audio tracks -- the surrounds are primarily used for reverb -- but the spread across the front soundstage is nice and wide. Dialogue is always intelligible, which in this case isn't necessarily such a good thing. (The dialogue itself is banal enough, and the voice acting makes it that much worse. Pegasus sounds like a parody of a drag queen, Pharaoh-Yugi sounds like Charlton Heston, and Yugi-Yugi sounds like John Candy from the "Den" sequence in Heavy Metal.) Extras consist of videos for two of the horrible songs featured in the film, a memory game involving some of the monsters from the card game, as well as the theatrical trailer. Oh, yeah -- you also get game card.

I know I'm not the target audience for this film. Thing is, if I were a member of the target audience, I'm not sure I'd enjoy it; too much boring talk and too much repetitive action for my tastes. If, however, your kids are into this, you'd better pick up a copy (if you haven't already done so, that is). Doing otherwise might upset the order of the universe.

Review content copyright © 2005 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 30

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* "Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Challenge"
* Music Videos
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb

* Movie Official Site

* Yu-Gi-Oh! Official Site